Shūsaku Endō

Silence is a fascinating novel by the Japanese Christian novelist, Shūsaku Endō.  It is based upon true events concerning Jesuit missionaries from Portugal who began going to Japan in the 1500s for mission work.  The missionaries to Japan were able to establish a thriving beachhead of Christianity that grew to 300,000 Japanese believers.  But then Japanese leaders began persecuting Christians, including priests from other countries.

The novel contains the story of two Portuguese priests who come to Japan in search of their mentor, a Portuguese priest who had reportedly apostatized.  It is a poignant tale of their attempts to encourage and minister to Japanese Christians while at the same time avoiding capture by the Japanese authorities.  Ultimately, one of the two priests will be killed and the other captured.  The main character is forced to decide between apostatizing and hence freeing Japanese Christians from torture, or remaining steadfast to Christ.

The book raises more questions than it gives answers – questions regarding faith and doubt, regarding persecution and apostasy.  The book is well-written and powerful.